On Dec. 8, the Assembly Education Committee and the Assembly Human Services Committee approved various bills concerning Pre-K-12 education.
Assembly Education Committee
The Assembly Education Committee approved:
Student Dropout Prevention A-398 would establish an “Office of Dropout Prevention and Reengagement of Out-of-School Youth” in the New Jersey Department of Education. The bill would also establish a Student Dropout Prevention Task Force.
The NJDOE’s Office of Dropout Prevention and Reengagement of Out-of-School Youth would be charged with developing a statewide strategic plan to prevent students from dropping out of school, address the needs for the reenrollment of student dropouts, and develop strategies to increase re-enrollment. The office would be required to collaborate with school districts in the development of that plan.
The purpose of the Student Dropout Prevention Task Force would be to analyze the causes of students leaving school prior to graduation, recommend best practices for reducing dropout rates and develop strategies to increase the reenrollment of students who have left school. The task force would consist of 18 members, including but not limited to representatives from the New Jersey Department of Education, the New Jersey Department of Corrections, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation, as well as superintendents, a principal, a guidance counselor and teachers. The task force would be charged with issuing a final report to the governor and the Legislature detailing its findings and recommendations within nine months.
The New Jersey School Boards Association supports the bill. It next heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for further consideration. Its Senate counterpart, S-3080, was approved Dec. 1 by the Senate Education Committee and referred to the Senate Budget Appropriations Committee for further consideration.
DOE Registry of Tutors A-4458 would require the NJDOE to establish and post on its website a searchable registry of individuals and organizations interested in offering free tutoring services to students throughout New Jersey. The bill specifies certain qualifications that an individual or organization may possess to be eligible to apply for inclusion on the registry, including but not limited to a teacher with a New Jersey certification, a retired New Jersey teacher who was in good standing at the time of retirement, a student enrolled in a two- or four-year institution of higher education in the state, or an industry professional with relevant subject matter expertise. The bill would require anyone included on the registry to undergo a criminal history record check. NJSBA supported the bill in the Assembly Education Committee and co-signed a joint statement by a dozen education associations requesting that the bill sponsors pause further legislative action to ensure that any legislative initiatives regarding tutoring can be done in coordination with the Murphy administration’s recently announced “New Jersey Partnership for Student Success” tutoring and mentoring initiative.
High Efficiency Accelerated Learning Grant Program A-4890 would establish the High Efficiency Accelerated Learning Grant Program to provide high-impact tutoring opportunities to mitigate the effects of interrupted learning due to COVID-19. The program would support school districts, charter schools and renaissance schools, or partnerships thereof, in creating and implementing high-impact tutoring programs. Nonpublic schools would also be able to participate in these partnerships. The program would be overseen and evaluated by a Tutoring Advisory Commission established in but not of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, on which a local school board representative, among other stakeholders, would sit.
Each tutoring program would be required to meet certain minimum criteria, including:
- Offering tutoring in English language arts and mathematics and in all grade levels taught by the grantee.
- Placing no more than five students in each tutoring group.
- Providing tutoring at least three times per week.
- Providing tutoring at a time and in a setting that facilitates and promotes learning.
- Providing high-quality trained tutors (e.g., public or nonpublic schoolteachers, paraprofessionals, or school administrative staff; community providers of tutoring services; AmeriCorps members; candidates in certified educator preparation programs).
- Ensuring that tutors remain the same, to the greatest extent possible, for each group throughout the marking period, or its equivalent.
- Using data and interim assessments to monitor student progress.
Tutoring programs could be offered during school hours, as after- or before-school programs, or as summer programs. Students designated as underperforming by the grantee, or who are not meeting grade-level expectations, would be automatically enrolled in the tutoring program, and other students would have the ability to opt in. Parents or guardians would have the ability to opt their child out of the program.
Prospective grantees would be required to apply to the Tutoring Advisory Commission. The commission would select grant recipients on a competitive basis but would give preference to programs that are set up to function for more than five years and could continue beyond the duration of the grant, programs that occur within regular school hours, or programs that partner with a certified educator preparation program within the state to utilize teaching candidates as tutors. Selected applicants would be required to put up matching funds.
The bill would establish the “High Efficiency Accelerated Learning Grant Fund” to finance the program. The Tutoring Advisory Commission would be permitted to utilize any federal or state funds allocated for the remediation of COVID-19 related learning loss, and any federal or state funds that are available for accelerated learning or workforce development programs.
According to the bill statement, “the State must invest in learning recovery efforts in order to ensure all students receive a thorough and efficient education.” In addition, “tutoring programs that are embedded in the classroom and partner with teacher preparation programs can both reduce teachers’ workload burdens and increase a teaching candidate’s preparedness for being in the classroom, and consequently these programs are an invaluable workforce development tool … a well-established tutor-to-teacher pipeline can help keep teachers in the profession and attract teaching candidates to the State.”
NJSBA supports the intent of the bill and co-signed a joint statement by a dozen education associations requesting that the bill sponsors pause further legislative action to ensure that any legislative initiatives regarding tutoring can be done in coordination with the Murphy administration’s recently announced “New Jersey Partnership for Student Success” tutoring and mentoring initiative. The bill now heads to the Assembly floor for further consideration. Its Senate counterpart, S-3220, was considered for a hearing only (not a vote) by the Senate Education Committee on Oct. 27.
Revisions to School Facilities Law and SDA Operations The committee held testimony on and amended – but did not release – A-4496, which would revise various provisions of law governing construction of school facilities projects and operations of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority. Additional information on the bill as initially introduced may be found in the NJSBA’s Oct. 18 SBN article “Legislative Update: Assembly Education Committee Holds Hearing on Learning Acceleration and School Facilities Bill; Senate Approves Various Education Measures.”
The amendments approved by the committee on Dec. 8 made various changes, including but not limited to:
- Removing the bill’s original requirement that the Legislature authorize school facility projects in SDA districts.
- Codifying the current SDA school design processes in lieu of the bill’s original “Model School Design” proposal.
- Requiring that any school facilities project of a charter school or renaissance school undertaken by the SDA adhere to all public school facility regulations.
The NJSBA has been engaged in the legislation and provided testimony expressing appreciation for certain amendments that addressed concerns identified in previous testimony, while outlining remaining concerns that should be addressed should the bill move through the legislative process.
Assembly Human Services Committee
The Assembly Human Services Committee approved:
Expanding Medicaid-Funded Health Services A-3334 would expand the state’s Medicaid-funded school-based health services by requiring reimbursement to districts for covered behavioral health services, delivered in-person or via telehealth, to Medicaid students. Specifically, the bill would make reimbursable covered services:
- Regardless of whether the student has an IEP, 504 Plan, Individualized Health Care Plan, or Individualized Family Service Plan.
- Regardless of whether the service is provided at no charge to the student.
- That are provided by a licensed medical practitioner approved as a Medicaid provider or a local educational agency approved as a Medicaid provider.
To effectuate this expanded program, the bill would require the New Jersey Department of Human Services to apply for any state plan for Medicaid amendments or waivers as are necessary. The bill would go into effect six months following federal approval.
The bill would also focus on the following:
- Reinvestment of reimbursement payments: Require districts to utilize Medicaid reimbursement payments received under the bill to provide behavioral health services for students and families.
- Administrative support for districts: Require the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Department of the Treasury and NJDOE to assist districts in submitting Medicaid claims, and ensure that the submission and reimbursement systems overlap as much as possible with procedures for the Special Education Medicaid Initiative, or SEMI. Districts would be authorized to enter into an agreement with other districts to contract with a third-party entity to process and submit Medicaid claims for covered behavior health services provided under the bill.
- Ensure Medicaid remains the payer of last resort: Require districts to take all reasonable measures to pursue claims for reimbursement against legally liable third parties in accordance with federal law.
The NJSBA supports the bill. It heads to the Assembly Education Committee for further consideration. Its Senate counterpart, S-2416, was approved by the Senate Education Committee Sept. 29 and referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
To view the full text of any of the bills summarized above, please visit the New Jersey Legislature’s website.